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Digital Tech generates largest number of Foreign Direct Investment projects in the South East, higher than national average, EY Attractiveness Survey reveals

11:02 08 June in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Digital Technology, Life Sciences & Healthcare, Oxfordshire

The South East retains its place in the top three UK regions for total FDI projects according to the EY Attractiveness survey.  The annual EY report examines the performance and perceptions of the UK and its regions as destinations for FDI, and this year includes a survey of 800 international investors looking at the impact of COVID-19 on investment.

Key findings from the Survey:

  • Digital tech generates the largest number of Foreign Direct Investment (‘FDI’) projects in the South East (36) at 43.4%, higher than the UK average (39%).
  • Overall, the region recorded 83 FDI projects in 2019, 54 of which were new to the region.
  • Reading is ranked ninth amongst UK towns and cities for FDI projects.
  • The South East declared its highest estimated employment figures from FDI projects in a decade


Of the FDI projects that did state job creation figures, 2,161 were declared in the South East, at an average of 50.3 jobs per project. Significant projects for employment were seen in Slough (an estimated 213 jobs), Reading (an estimated 100 jobs) and Swindon (an estimated 100 jobs).

Amongst the region’s other towns that have benefitted from an increase in FDI in 2019, are Reading, 14 projects (+2 from 2018), Swindon, three projects (+3), the first time the town has reported FDI in a decade, Bracknell, three projects (+1), Oxford, three projects (+1) and Didcot, two projects (+1).

Richard Baker, Managing Partner at EY in the South East said:

“The Thames Valley is known as the Silicon Valley of Europe, so it comes as no surprise that the digital tech sector makes up such a large proportion of FDI investment in the wider region and also compares favourably with the rest of the UK.

“Overall, the South East has a number of locations that attract FDI projects. This is a positive reflection of a more even distribution of investment across the region. Although, Reading is ranked 9th among UK cities for the number of FDI projects, it only accounts for 17% of projects in the region, meaning that many more towns and cities across the South East are realising investment opportunities from overseas businesses.

Paul Britton, CEO, Thames Valley Chamber of Commerce, added:

“The Thames Valley is a tried and tested destination for FDI and remains one of the UK’s and, indeed, Europe’s, most successful regions. Delighted to read that the digital tech and life sciences sectors – which are key to the region’s success – are high potential opportunity sectors in the UK as we face the challenges presented by COVID-19. With 70% of international companies setting up in the UK for the first time locating within one hour of Heathrow airport, we will continue pushing Government for the delivery of major infrastructure projects, such as the Western Rail Link to Heathrow (WRLtH), which will increase the attractiveness of the Thames Valley as a destination for foreign-owned companies.

View the 2020 EY Attractiveness Survey HERE.